Kuwait International Airport

Kuwait International Airport will soon be upgraded with a brand-new terminal.

For years, there has been a need for the expansion of Kuwait International Airport, as Kuwait City’s primary gateway and the home airport of the country’s two airlines: Kuwait Airways and Jazeera Airways. While the airport was already able to handle some 10 million passengers a year by 2011, a larger capacity was needed if the objectives laid out in Vision 2035 were to be realized in terms of tourism, connectivity, and international business.

The Department of Civil Aviation voiced its intention to expand Kuwait International Airport in 2011. Six years later, construction work for Terminal 2 began based on an expansion plan designed by British architectural firm, Foster and Partners. The contract was awarded to the Istanbul-based Limak Holding, which completed the main segment of the project in just four years instead of the six-and-a-half years specified in the contract. Around KWD900 million (USD3.2 billion) was initially earmarked for the expansion project, though the actual costs may have exceeded that mark. The billion-dollar contract awarded to the Turkish company is also a milestone in the history of economic relations with Ankara.

Terminal 2’s huge capacity of at least 13 million passengers a year (in Phase I) will significantly increase Kuwait City’s connectivity to the world. By the end of the second and third phases, handling capacity will be raised to 25 million and subsequently 50 million passengers per year, respectively. Terminal 2 is intended to run largely by the private sector, proving that privatization in key sectors is reaching new proportions in the country. Kuwait International Airport has now become “arguably the most privatized airport in the Middle East,” according to the Center for Aviation.

The Directorate General for Civil Aviation (DGCA) will announce the private operator at a later date. DGCA has been sizing up interested international operators since 2021 by holding a preliminary tender and expects the future operator to spend two years on training Terminal 2’s staff, ensuring the highest standards of practices in the aviation sector.

It is hoped that Phase I will be fully completed by 2024, along with all its amenities, including an air-side hotel. By the end of Phase I, Terminal 2 will boast 120 check-in desks as well as over 6km of high-speed baggage conveyers capable of processing 2,900 bags per hour. In order to make the terminal more user-friendly for people of all ages, the walking distance from the entrance gates to the boarding lounges has been minimized, while the terminal’s intuitive design spares people from losing their way inside the colossal building.

Terminal 2’s design exhibits a high degree of environmental awareness, in keeping with the ecological policies of Vision 2035. In addition, the terminal’s design draws on Kuwait’s cultural heritage. “The new terminal’s design is inspired by local art and architecture, while the construction materials will be responsive to the climate, as the airport is located in one of the hottest climate zones on the Earth,” according to Airport Technology. The project, therefore, may become the first airport terminal in the world to receive top ratings from sustainability monitoring institutions, including LEED’s Gold Certification.

Terminal 2 is not the only addition to Kuwait’s primary airport. In 2018, the nation’s two airlines decided to open their own dedicated terminals, taking the airport’s expansion project to a new level. While the flag carrier, Kuwait Airways, launched Terminal 4, the country’s budget airline, Jazeera Airways, introduced Terminal 5 as its dedicated terminal.

These two additions further eased passenger load at Terminal 1. Terminal 4 alone is capable of handling 4-5 million passengers annually. It is now fully operational and serves as the exclusive hub for all flights operated by Kuwait Airways. This terminal, too, was built partly by Turkish construction company Cengiz Insaat. The local construction giant, First Kuwait Contractor, also contributed to the project. The designs came out of the studios of the multinational engineering consulting firm, AECOM.

The operating rights were awarded to Korea’s Incheon International Airport Company (IIAC). Although Incheon’s management of Terminal 4 has not been free of challenges, the operator has been training over 100 airport staff every year, who may also by put to work in Terminal 2. Terminal 5 was a comparatively smaller project, as it was technically an extension of Terminal 1. Nevertheless, it employs a modern, youthful, and optimal design and operation model, adding to the diversity of travel experiences that Kuwait City can offer.

The addition of Terminal 2, Terminal 4, and Terminal 5 has not only raised the handling capacity of the Kuwait International Airport but has also made the addition of new direct routes possible. The nation’s flag carrier and its budget airline both continue to introduce new routes, especially with tourism and aviation’s post-pandemic recovery. Kuwait Airwaves announced eight new routes in the summer of 2022, including to the Maldives, Kuala Lumpur, and Hyderabad. International airlines and flag carriers of other countries, meanwhile, are counting on Terminal 2’s growing capacity to soon launch direct flights to Kuwait City.